Doyle faces challenge for 57th District seat

October 17, 2002|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Challenger Dave Ebbitt uses strong words when he describes the work of the West Virginia Legislature in recent years.

Ebbitt, a Republican candidate challenging Del. John Doyle for the 57th District House of Delegates seat in the Nov. 5 election, said the Legislature has shown "total ineptness" on a "multitude of issues."

An emergency medicine physician at City Hospital in Martinsburg, W.Va., Ebbitt has been working to bring attention to high medical malpractice insurance rates, which he said is having an effect on medical care in the Eastern Panhandle area.


The area has been losing doctors in critical care, neurology and obstetrics, and much of the trend can be attributed to high medical malpractice insurance rates, he said.

"It's really an access to health care problem. It's definitely having a local impact," said Ebbitt, 39, of 104 Hawthorn Court, Shepherdstown.

The Legislature set aside six weeks to consider medical malpractice issues last year but came up with few meaningful solutions, Ebbitt said.

Nevada passed medical malpractice reform legislation in two days earlier this year and Mississippi also passed legislation promptly, Ebbitt said.

In addition to concerns about the cost of medical malpractice insurance, doctors are worried about the availability of it, Ebbitt said.

The state has offered to provide malpractice insurance to any doctor who cannot obtain it, but Ebbitt said he is not encouraged by the proposal given the state's record in programs like the Public Employees Insurance Agency, which has had huge deficits, candidates for office say.

Ebbitt said he is also concerned about poor state funding for Shepherd College and the state of public education in Jefferson County.

Ebbitt said the county has needed a second high school for at least 10 years and local lawmakers have been ineffective in helping to secure money from the state School Building Authority for the project.

Doyle, of P.O. Box 1067, Shepherdstown, was elected to his seat in 1982 for a two-year term. He was elected again in 1992 and has served since then.

Doyle, who is paid $15,000 a year, said he wants to return to office to address issues such as improving public education, increasing funding for farmland protection and issues related to population growth.

As a member of the Legislative Oversight Commission on Education Accountability, Doyle said he has been pushing for high schools to be required to add more required courses to their curriculum and fewer elective courses.

The effort comes after complaints that high school students are not as prepared for college as they should be, Doyle said.

The emphasis in public education used to be on allowing students to take more elective courses so they can pursue their own interests, Doyle said. That should only be allowed after students have "grounding in the basics," he said.

The state Board of Education has started responding to the issue by adding a required civics class and a fourth science class at the high school level, Doyle said.

Doyle said he wants to push for more required math and history classes.

"I'm not done yet but I'm beginning to see the tide is turning," Doyle said.

Doyle said he wants more funding available to counties for farmland preservation, an issue getting more attention as residential development continues to increase.

In the last session of the Legislature, lawmakers passed a bill that allows counties to increase their real estate transfer tax to generate more money for farmland protection. Doyle said the problem with the bill is the tax increase is exempted from real estate sales in excess of $1 million.

Doyle said he wants to change the legislation to include all types of real estate sales.

The 57th District House of Delegates seat includes Kearneysville, Shepherdstown, Bakerton, Shenandoah Junction, Halltown, Millville, Harpers Ferry and Bolivar.

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